Greenery, grassland, expansive, steppes, tropical and mountainous; we present the Udzungwa Mountains in South-Central Tanzania. Based within the Iringa Region, these wise mountains are a must for those who want to be engulfed by an ancient heaven like nature.
Often nicknamed as “The Galapagos Islands of Africa”, the title is well deserved with cascading waterfalls including the highest waterfall in Tanzania, fresh plunge pools, epic hiking trails, spontaneous animal encounters and impressive wilderness areas.
Part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, abode to a biodiverse community of flora and fauna with a large number of uniquely endemic species, Udzungwa is 770 miles of sheer mother nature glory. It has been crowned the second largest biodiversity of a national park in Africa and protects more than 400 bird species, 2500 plant species (25% of which are original to Udzungwa) and 6 primate species. The Iringa red colobus, an old world monkey and Sanje crested mangabey, a highly endangered furry friend which was only rediscovered in 1979, are the main stars of the national park, only found in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park.
The Udzungwa Mountains protect a heritage of mountainous lifestyle and, the name itself derives from the “Wadzungwa” which literally translates to people who live on mountainsides. The Hehe people, a Bantu tribe lived in isolation, undisturbed and preserving a rich agricultural culture with an intimate knowledge of the lands until the German arrival and then British Protectorate. The Hehe of the Udzungwa would fight bravely against these foreign invaders in efforts to preserve their home. Today visitors can visit Tanzanian Villages to honour and recognise their right to this tropical jungle.
The Udzungwa Mountains have attracted hikers for many years, the network of trails that weave across the mountain range have always left hikers wanting more.
Off the beaten track but for those who appreciate undiscovered gems, the Sanje Waterfalls are located on the Eastern border of the Udzungwa range. It is an easier hike than most and hikers can be sure to enjoy a plunge in the pool upon arrival. Depending on health levels expect a few hour leisurely hike accompanied by suspended monkeys in the trees and flittering butterflies leading the way.
Lesser known than the classic route to the Sanje, Njokamoni is the same distance and ascension but takes you to the Prince Bernhards falls, across the Njokamoni waterfalls at 40 meters high and to the Hondo Hondo campsite.
This Mwanihaha trail is for those who can forego 2-3 days of normality, a trek that takes you on paths to encounter the Sanje Mangabey and the Iringa Red Colobus Monkey, enjoy unspoiled and untrodden paths of rainforest and experience breathtaking views of elephants and buffalos in their natural habitat.
If you are more interested in following in the footsteps of the endemic Sanje mangabey then choose this tracking path that allows you observe their behaviour with the help of park experts. It is a great opportunity to get close to them in their wild habitat and poses no threat as the Mangabey are used to humans and may often satisfy your curioisity by posing for a photo.
A 65 km trail dive deep in the forest with no accommodation but the tropical ground as your bed and the canopy of trees as your roof. This hike is for only experienced hikers and follows the path of the Lumeno river which finds its original source in the heart of the Mountain range. Hikers will pass all types of earthlylandscapes and undoubtedly come face to face with the many endemic species of Udzungwa.
Accommodation must be carefully arranged despite the size of the National park, visitors can only expect camping types of stays. Whilst camping varies from luxurious tented camps to village stays, preparations are encouraged as spaces are few and visitors are many.
The village of Mang’ula also provides a couple of local guesthouses for those on a budget with a taste of what most villages look like in Tanzania; a bustling market, mechanics workshops, rice mills and market stalls.
Hondo Hondo Udzungwa Forest Tented Camp
The name means hornbill in Swahili and provides tented sleeping accommodations amidst nature, at the edge of the jungle and in small-scale simple tented camps. You can expect all your necessary amenities run by solar powered electricity and with immaculate forest views.
How to get there
Depending on your place of departure buses run daily from Dar es Salaam, Mbeya, Iringa or Dodoma.
TAZARA train runs twice weekly from Dar to Zambia, stopping at Mang’ula Station, which stops you in Mang’ula village in the centre of the Udzungwa Mountains.
There are also flights to Iringa where you can arrange a transfer by car or tour bus.